#TKME : Rock n Roll In The Workplace

Work.

It’s a little something we humans do in order to earn a living. Some of us may not be doing it because they’re stinkin’ rich, have a trust fund, a sugar parent (LOL) and what not. But for the good lot of us, we’re probably engaged in it.

Now a lot of people keep work as just it, work. The same people may also consider the people in the workplace, their workmates, to be no more than passing acquaintances who happen to be stuck in the same kind of work they do. Activities and interactions are very limited, if any at all.

That’s not how I operate though – while I keep work as just that, I try to inject fun in whatever it is I do. If I don’t do that, I become bored and I become less efficient when I am bored. The people in my workplace, not all of them of course, are more than just passing faces to me and I consider many to be friends of mine. Over time, a lot have become not just friends in the workplace, but also friends outside of work and into the realm of real life.

I’ve been working with my current employer for some years now, going seven this August and going two years in sales this October. Moving to this department allowed me to meet a lot of people, make friends and even have a band.

 

That’s right, a band.

 

For some reason, I always have a hard time connecting to most workplace acquaintances with regards to music. Mostly, people equate my pink ear gear (is there such a term even?) with modern and evil (LOL) pop music. As soon as they find out that I like music that does not spout “yeah” or “yellow” or “baby” every twelve words, they shy away from me and I get classified as a weirdo. When I do find the kind of people who’re into my style of music, they’re either too old or are not musicians.

 

It must just be me though…

 

The last time I formed a band with workmates was back in 2009, when I got my good friends from the office, with whom I shared a common affinity for rock / metal music, to form a band to play during our then employer’s Christmas Party.

This time around, it was a going to be a little different. For a good long while, I’d known of this girl Karen, who worked as a supervisor in my office. I’d heard from people that she had been in bands before and when we got talking, I found out that she had a wide range of music that she listens to – rnb, pop, rock and damn even Nightwish. She had always struck me as one of the more “cool” people in the office, with her relaxed demeanor and very positive outlook on things.

When the ad came up in our office that the Thanksgiving Party was going to need bands to perform, Karen and I immediately got to talking about what we can do about it. She suggested that we find people to play with us, and honestly, I had next to no idea who to approach let alone what to play. At the time, she had already known that I was a guitar player but I told her that I’m cool with any instrument that I can use.

The first order of business as with any band, is to find us a drummer. What I really had in mind was someone who either shoots blast beats like dragon’s breath, or someone who’s at home with changing time signatures. We did find a guy (Rob) though but he was none of the above mentioned. He is mostly a punk and ska guy, and I thought we probably won’t be doing power metal so we got him on board.

A keyboardist was denied to us because the only guy who played decent keys in the office was already taken by a different band.

We found a second guitarist (Mel) who was much closer in vein to what I was looking for. The guy though is much more metal than I can ever be. We thought it would be cool to have him on board so we have a solid rhythm guy. The other guy prior to him was unfortunately fired from the office – that guy had much more in common with me since he also tinkers with his gear, is a big EVH fan and has far better sightreading abilities.

We found a bassist (Jhun) in the form of a previous team mate of mine who’s mostly into regular rock n roll, and radio friendly stuff.

To round things off, we got a manager (Mark) of ours to do odds and ends for the band, like paying for rehearsal fees and feeding us with street food. In the end, he played timbales and tambourines, rounding us out and giving us an almost Latin-ish, fusion feel.

 

The band’s name (The Karen Macuha Experience, or TKME as we referred to it) was one that was decided on partly by us and partly by our department managers. We threw down all sorts of names like “The Salesmen”, “The Commissioners” (since we work off commission), “After Call Work” (which incidentally is the name of our FB Messenger chat group) and a whole bunch of other things. For some odd reason, I took Karen’s name and spliced “Experience” on it. I was thinking it to be reminiscent of The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

At first glance by the managers, there was some resistance to the name, the oft cited reason is that it sounded like a bad sexual innuendo. I spoke to our girl about it, and she says she didn’t think it was, but we still had the managers decide on it if we’ll get a green. We did get permission to use the name because one of the management thought the name sounded classy, and that we cannot avoid it if people think it was an innuendo. He said that if we’re cool with it, it’s all good.

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This was the poster for the band. I look like I’m high on Skittles.

We ended up with a band with deeply contrasting musical tastes. Most of the members aren’t exactly the types who’re into technical music, but for the thing we wanted to do, which was to cover a Sampaguita’s classic song, “Nosi Ba Lasi” and upon final decision, No Doubt’s “Underneath It All”, what we had assembled was probably capable enough to pull off the job.

 

We decided that for the No Doubt number, we would benefit from having a keyboard player to make our sound thicker. But since we no longer had time to be looking around for one, I decided to play the keys and guitar at the same time. I jumped at the chance to do so because I’d always suggested to one of my previous bands that I can try to do that, but I always got shot down. It actually was pretty challenging but I think I made that work out just fine. The keyboard parts were fairly simple so I did the melody, and to keep my fretting hand going, I simply hammered the chords. That also kept me in time with what I was doing.

Since it was decided that the whole band thing was going to be a competition for a whopping Php 5,000, we all agreed that “Nosi Ba Lasi” would be our main “battle” song. However, the original is too upfront so we set about orchestrating some changes to it.

One of the things we wanted done was to make the song feel like it was a live performance of something we wrote ourselves. We tried all sorts of intros to it, but none was working in the manner we wanted it to. I was on a very heavy Van Halen binge at the time since my Kramer 5150 replica was very new to me and fresh back from work done by Papi’s Guitar Shop.

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I cannot stress enough how good this guitar feels after the work done on it. Photo courtesy of Papi’s Guitar.

While playing around with a bunch of VH riffs and licks, Mel suggested that one of the licks I played seemed to match the song – the problem was he didn’t know the title, and I sure as heck couldn’t remember because I played a whole bunch of them. By chance though, I played the arpeggiated chord intro to “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, and the guy was like “Yeah! That!”. Also around that time we decided to play on song dynamics, which was a fairly simple way in the sense that it was to start slow to build on the intro then segued into the song itself.

Past the ATBL intro chords, we were supposed to continue but using the song’s actual intro chords at a slower tempo, which was a pretty straightforward deal. Over that section, I wrote in a pedal note driven riff that followed the chord progression which went with the same pattern as Slash n Burn’s “Itaas Mo!”.

The song then proceeds as normal although on the most part, I only played root notes or octaves while letting Mel go mad with a galloping rhythm part.

The solo is pretty much the same as the original, except some portions I changed out with my own scale runs. The tapping part is there and I extended it over the vocals a bit with some tremolo picking, again ala EVH.

The next section of the song was something we all came up with – the idea was to bring the song dynamics down some, hence the clean guitar tones. Mel played out the open chords and I did volume swells over the thing. I like to think that I ripped out that part (check it on the vid below, starts at 03:18) from the Live Without A Net version of 5150.

 

After the volume swollen (LOL) part, it was time for some heaviness. We were playing the chorus chords iirc, and all we did was pretty much bash away while I fired off an improvised solo that I made up on the spot, err at least while the video was rolling. The little bass part comes in, which we all decided to totally isolate so it would be totally bad ass. The song proceeded normally past that until the end.

 

Below is the whole song put together as we wanted it to be on the actual day of the party.

 

For a time after the party, I had plans to actually go into a studio and record this version. I’m still thinking about doing so – I just need to work out who could spare me the time to help out with that.

 

Too bad we don’t have an actual video of us during the party, but from the feedback we’d heard, the other departments seemed to be looking at us to utterly destroy them…

…which didn’t happen since we lost out to the competition.

 

 

That’s it for my little story with the band. So far, we have had no rehearsals, but we plan to keep the band together just in case we need to play at a company function again. Sadly, our girl Karen left the office and it’s just us guys sticking it out. Hopefully, we find someone to take up the mic if we’d need to play again.

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Looking back on it all, it didn’t turn out to be so sloppy a job. I was honestly thinking we would not be able to get along musically, let alone get off the ground with a full set of songs. I guess that one can indeed meet similar, like minded people even if they’re dressed up differently than one might have in mind.

 

 

 

PS. I feel like I want to write up a tab for the whole song the way we did it.

 

 

 

 

~

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